The Mother-Daughter Relationship in Amnesty
In Nancy Chodorow’s Pre-oedipal gender configurations, she emphasizes the importance of the mother and society in a child’s development. In contrast to Freud’s emphasis on the father, castration anxiety, and other masculine concepts, Chodorow argues that the mother plays the most significant role in a child’s development. A child’s pre-oedipal relationship with their mother is rich, long-lasting, and preexists any significant relation to the child’s father. Thus Chodorow works off of the ideas of Freud to argue the importance of the relationship between mother and child during the pre-oedipal stage. Examples of Chodorow’s psychoanalytic concepts exist in Octavia Butler’s Amnesty. The protagonist of the story, Noah Cannon, must act as translator for the human race when strangely shaped aliens called communities make contact with Earth. One thing she experiences as translator is a strange process of merging between herself and the community. The merging of entities in Octavia Butler’s Amnesty is a defensive formation created by Noah’s mind in response to the painful treatment of the Communities. This fantastical merging replicates the concept of pseudosymbiosis Chodorow discusses in her work on mother-daughter relationships.
In general, Nancy Chodorow is a psychoanalytic theorist interested in the different ways that boys and girls develop and respond to the traditional family structure. She describes psychoanalysis in the past and present, making clear Freud’s foundational ideas and the recent discovery of the pre-oedipal mother-daughter relationship. Chodorow draws on the ideas of other psychoanalysts who emphasize patterns of fusion, projection, narcissistic extension, and denial of separateness that effect mother-daughter relationships. Particularly important in these relationships is symbiosis between mother and child. Chodorow points out several factors that prevent a healthy relationship such as “the way a...
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